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dogue de bordeaux

Also known as the French Mastiff

The Dogue de Bordeaux is an extremely old breed, probably originating in Roman times and descended from the Molosser-type dogs used by the Romans in battle. They are big, affectionate and very brave. Some people may say too brave for safety. They have a grumpy, intimidating appearance, but are calm unless provoked.


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Dogue de BordeauxImage courtesy AKC

Dogue de Bordeaux -
Temperament

This massive breed of dog is loving and very loyal to their family. Although their very distant ancestors were bred for battle, and then hunting, this is not an aggressive nor edgy dog. They are generally calm and confident. But at 27+ inches tall and 110+ lbs, you need to be in charge, and recognize situations that may turn bad.

The Dogue de Bordeaux is not always tolerant of other dogs, but will rarely start trouble. However, if they are attacked by another dog, they will readily defend themselves. This quick change of behavior combined with surprising agility and fast reflexes can catch some owners off-guard if they are not prepared.

The problem is not so much that they are aggressive, it's more that if they decide to take action, their sheer size and strength will dominate the situation.

Like most Mastiff breeds, they tend to have a stubborn streak and an independent nature. This makes training a bit of a chore, but it's essential if you want to end up with a sociable animal.

Dogue de BordeauxA big dog!

As puppies they can be cute one minute and rowdy the next. This boisterous nature subsides as the dog grows up, but even as a puppy they can be a handful to manage. You must be in control from Day One, or else the dog will start to take charge.

They tend to snore a lot when asleep, loudly. They also grunt and snuffle a lot, making them a noisy breed around the house. They also tend to suffer from flatulence, and they drool A LOT. If you want to get an idea of how much this breed drools, watch the Tom Hanks comedy film 'Turner and Hooch'. The dog scenes are not exaggerated.

All in all, this is a lot of dog to have in your home. They are BIG, take up a lot of space, want to sit on your feet and lean against your legs - which is fine except they are so heavy - AND they can take over and rule the roost if you don't impose your will early and consistently. This is not a breed for inexperienced or first-time dog owners, or if you have small children.

This breed does not need a lot of exercise, but a good sized back yard and daily walks are good. The rest of the time, they will lie around sprawled wherever you let them - so be strict if you don't want them on your sofa or bed!

However this laid-back attitude does not mean they are good in an apartment situation. They are just too big, and take up too much room to be comfortable in most apartments.

Dogue de Bordeaux-
Breed History

This breed is so old that its origins are unclear, but it is generally believed that ancestors of the breed were brought to France (then Gaul) during the reign of the Roman Empire, as Roman war dogs. These Molosser-type dogs were the ancestors of all modern-day Mastiff breeds, such as the English Mastiff, the Neapolitan Mastiff and the Tibetan Mastiff.

As well as being used in battle, the Romans used their Molosser dogs for entertainment, as gladiators in the arena taking on other animals and dogs. They were bred to be big, heavy and strong.

After the fall of the Roman Empire the dogs were used for hunting, for pulling carts to market, and as guard dogs on French country estates. They were so useful because of their strength and weight, and were bred to fill these roles for hundreds of years.

It was during the reign of the English Kings in Aquitaine from 1203 to 1453 that English Mastiffs were crossed with the descendants of the Roman Molosser-type dogs, to increase their size. Many authorities believe that Spanish Mastiffs were added to the mix to make the dog look more intimidating. At this time, they were referred to simply as 'Dogue' type dogs.

After the French Revolution which ended in 1799, they lost their job as estate guard dogs, and numbers declined. Those dogs that survived continued to be used as personal guard dogs, in cattle droving, and at times for pulling carts.

The name Dogue de Bordeaux first appeared in 1863 at a dog show in Paris. The winner was from Bordeaux, and was referred to as the Dogue de Bordeaux. The term 'French Mastiff' is an English name.

Over the next 100 years there was some disagreement about the breed standard, and from 1890 to 1910 there were 3 distinct types of Dogue; The Toulouse type, the Paris type and the Bordeaux type. The Toulouse type resembled a modern-day Great Dane. The Paris type was like an English Mastiff, while the Bordeaux type closely resembled the 1863 show-winning 'Dogue de Bordeaux'.

Breed standards were written in 1910, 1971 and 1993, finally resulting in a stable breed, and recognition by the FCI.

Vital Statistics;

Height;  24 inches to 27+ inches

Weight; 99 lbs minimum (females)  to 110 lbs minimum (males). Dogs can weigh over 150 lbs.

Life Span; only 5 to 8 years

Colors;

Fawn,  Mahogany, or Red,  with a Black mask and White markings on the chest.

Ease of Training

NOT easy. The Dogue de Bordeaux is strong-willed and has a mind of its own. You must take charge on the very first day you get your dog, and remain consistent in your behavior. If you let your puppy get away with climbing on a sofa just once, for example, the dog will expect to get away with it ever after.

While maintaining a consistent approach to discipline (ie where the dog is allowed to go, what they are allowed to do), you should start with socializing your puppy. Our page on socialization is HERE.

By socializing your puppy early, you are introducing them gradually to new sights, sounds, smells and strange people and animals. This process results in a dog that is calm and confident, that will not be startled or become edgy in a new situation.

Introducing your puppy to other dogs regularly will help to reduce any tendency to want to dominate other dogs, thereby reducing the dog-on-dog aggression that this breed is known for.

Part of the socialization process should involve puppy training classes. This will introduce your dog to other dogs, and start the formal raining process. This is an intelligent breed, and once they understand their place, they can be trained well.

If possible, I would recommend getting a personal professional dog trainer for 1-on-1 dog training. While this costs some money, it is well worth it, in my opinion. If you can find one who has trained Mastiff breeds before, so much the better.

Protection

This is the breed for the job. The Dogue de Bordeaux was bred for centuries to act as a guard dog, and they are perfect for the role.

Dogue de BordeauxDogue de Bordeaux

As watchdogs, they may not react as quickly as some other breeds to a stranger passing by or something different going on in the vicinity. They tend to sleep a lot, and will take a "watch and wait" approach to a stranger if one approaches the house.

Once the dog is alert, he will watch what happens very carefully, probably moving into a position to investigate. The physical appearance of the breed will intimidate all but the most determined intruders. But if he decides that his home or family are under threat, he will take action.

If you need some protection or a guard dog, the French Mastiff is up there with the best.

Grooming

This is an easy breed to groom. They have a short dense coat that sheds continuously, but the hairs are short. A short daily brush followed by a longer brushing each week should keep the hairs under control.

A bigger issue is the folds of skin around the head and the tendency to drool. This means the head and face can get messy quite quickly, and you need to be prepared to mop up drool regularly, and wipe down the skin folds around the head.

The AKC recommends a full bath once a month, although wiping the coat down with a damp towel can keep the dog clean between baths, and extend the gap until a full bath is needed.

The dogs claws should be checked monthly, and trimmed if they are getting too long. The ears should be checked at least weekly for foreign objects or any signs of infection such as redness, swelling or a bad smell.

Health Considerations

The Dogue de Bordeaux dog breed has a surprisingly short life span, just 5 to 7 years on average.They have a high rate of bone cancer, and responsible breeders will have parent dogs screened by a vet for several other issues too;

  • Hip evaluation
  • Elbow evaluation
  • Shoulder evaluation
  • Cardiac evaluation

The other major issue with the breed is bloat (gastric dilatation and volvulus). This can be triggered by the dog bolting his food too quickly. An anti-gulping bowl can help to slow down how quickly the dog eats and reduce the risk of bloat.

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Famous Dogue de Bordeaux Dogs

A Dogue de Bordeaux played the part of Hooch in the 1989 Tom Hanks comedy film "Turner and Hooch".


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